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Dealing with the Unexpected

August 11, 2012

As triathletes, we sometimes like to think of our training and racing schedules as inviolate. We will do these workouts. We will finish these races. What could be more important than a major race? Why would we skip a race after spending months in training? But sometimes life happens, and we will miss a race. It’s frustrating, it sucks. But when it happens, we need to be able to deal with it and move on. I guess you could say this blog post is part of my process of dealing with it and moving on.

I was supposed to race in the Dairyland Udder Half Ironman distance triathlon this past weekend. It was one of three long-distance triathlons I’m doing this year (the Racine Half Ironman and Ironman Arizona are the other two). It was probably the least important of the three, but it was still a really big deal, both as a race unto itself and as a part of my preparation for Arizona. It was one of only two chances I would have to really test myself on a long-distance race before Arizona. I mean, sure, I’ll do really long training bike rides and runs, but there’s just something different about a race mentality. And shorter triathlons don’t include the same elements of pacing and nutrition. I registered for this race months ago. My team’s training plan was built to include the race as a key building block. And after the Racine Half Ironman, I knew I could do the distance, but I also knew there were some key pacing strategies I could work on. This was going to be my second chance to tweak my race approach. I was excited. I was ready. I was going to love this race.

And then the Monday before the race, my husband’s grandma passed away. I had been introduced to her before, but I barely knew her. I wanted to think that I might still be able to do my race and support my husband. But I knew when it came down to it, that supporting my husband and his family was more important than my race. The first thing I told him was I’ll cancel my race if you want me there. Even as we began making plans to fly to San Diego, the inevitable questions came up in my mind — “Can I do my race and still make it out to San Diego? Can I fit in both?” But the wake was going to be Friday and Saturday, and the funeral Monday. My race was on Saturday. No, I could not do both.

Even though I knew I wanted to go to San Diego, to support my husband, to be there for his family, I couldn’t help that feeling of frustration, of it’s not fair. I felt almost guilty, but it was there. Yes, I was frustrated that I was going to miss this race. Life sucks sometimes. As we packed our bags late Thursday night, I at least put my running shoes and clothes in my bag to see if I could get in a couple workouts while in San Diego.

Fortunately, all of my frustration disappeared as soon as we were in San Diego. We were on the same flight as Jeremy’s brother, and Jeremy’s mom met us all at the airport. The services were all beautiful and touching, and it was clear this was where I needed to be. I knew many of Jeremy’s aunts, uncles, and cousins who were there, and they were all very glad to see me there. And, most importantly, I knew it was very important to Jeremy that I was there. I knew how much it meant to him. Jeremy’s brother and mom both recognized the sacrifice I made, skipping a big race, and were very thankful for my presence. Even though I didn’t really know Jeremy’s grandma, I felt included in the family.

At least I was able to get in a few workouts. There was a hill right behind our hotel, and on Saturday I did hill sprints on it (6 x sprint .21 miles up at 4.5% grade, easy jog down). Sunday I went to Balboa Park (a big park in downtown San Diego) with the family and did a 6 mile run there while everyone hung out at a Filipino cultural festival. And Sunday I did more hill sprints (this time 8 x .13 miles up at 7.5% grade, easy jog down, followed by squat holds). Not the same as if I did my triathlon, but something. I also brought my swimsuit and goggles, but the hotel pool was small and always had kids in it. Sunday night we joined a bunch of Jeremy’s cousins for a big bonfire on Fiesta Island in San Diego bay — I told Jeremy if we lived in San Diego, I would be rowing in the channel right by Fiesta Island and cycle on Fiesta Island for training. I was also reminded of how much Filipino sweets are a weakness for me. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, so normally I have no problem skipping dessert. American desserts are overpoweringly sweet to me. But Filipino sweets are more fruit and rice based, a little sweet but nothing like American ones. And I like them a lot more!

As we headed back home to Chicago, some of my frustration and anger returned. Not at Jeremy. I’m glad I could be there to support him. I’m glad I could be a part of the family. I’m grateful that the family wanted me there. I count my blessings that they value our relationship enough that it was important to them that I was there. Just lingering frustration at missing my race. And I guess I need to remind myself that it’s okay for me to feel frustrated and upset. I don’t need to feel guilty about that frustration, as if somehow my frustration should go away just because skipping my race was the right thing to do. I mean, really, if I wasn’t at least a little frustrated and upset, I would have to question why I was training so hard. I spent months preparing for that race. And sure, maybe I wasn’t training only for that race. But that race was a big deal. Lost registration fee aside (though that also sucks), I had physically spent months training for the race and I was emotionally heavily invested in it.

Since being back in Chicago, the frustration is fading. I remember how touching the wake and funeral was; I forget about the race I missed. I focus on why I went to San Diego, and how meaningful it was to be there, instead of thinking about what I could have done if I stayed for my race. Not a time for the “what ifs.” I know I wanted to go to San Diego. I’m glad I did. And that’s that. I’m back to my normal training plan. Missing that race seems like a big deal right now, but in the scheme of things, I know it’s not really going to have a huge impact on my ability to finish Ironman Arizona. We’re still months away from the race. I still have a lot of time to build endurance. I’ll be ready.

99 Days till Ironman Arizona! (oooh, just realized that puts us just under 100 days…)

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